7 Stoic Lessons
Amor Fati - Love your Fate
In life, you have two options: You can want things to turn out a certain way, or you can welcome them the way that they happened
Amor Fati is the practice of loving everything that happens to you. Not just accepting, not just tolerating but leaning into it and saying “This is for me, I wanted this”. When things don’t go the way you want, say “Amor Fati”. That’s what we must do with every obstacle that we face. Whatever it is, big or small, fair or unfair, chosen or tragedy. We say “Amor Fati”, love it all, use it as fuel, and become better because of it. It’s the only way we turn the bad things into good things.
“What you throw on top of a fire, becomes the fire”
- Marcus Aurelius
Protect Your Time
We human beings are day trading the most valuable commodity that life has to offer, and many of us are too preoccupied with the distractions of life that we fail to recognize this until it’s too late.
The mistake is that we think of death as something in the future. Like it’s something we’re moving towards as time is passing. However, death is happening right now. The time that’s passed is owned by death. We are dying everyday, we’re dying every minute. We have to get better at managing this precious resource. We fritter away our time, meanwhile we strongly and strictly guard our property and money. You can always buy more property, and you can always earn more money, but what you can’t do is find or create more time. Use your time wisely!
“People are frugal guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy”
The Dichotomy of Control
It’s really simple, there’s all the things in the world that happen and there’s the tiny part of it that you control. The stoics call this the dichotomy of control.
So much of the time and energy that we spend in this life are on things that are not up to us. Things that are not in our control. For example, it started raining. We don’t need to have an opinion on the fact that it’s raining because it’s not in our control. What is in our control is what we do. What’s in our control is our actions, our thoughts and our opinions. There is no point in having an opinion about the things that we cannot control.
“The chief task in life is to make the distinction between what is in your control and what is not”
The Discipline of Action
“You could be good today but instead you choose tomorrow”.
- Marcus Aurelius
Do it now, because the truth is, now you have for certain. You don’t know that you have tomorrow. It’s arrogant to think you can get to this next year. It’s arrogant to think that you’ll be able to do something when you retire. Now is now, do it now, don’t put it off.
Seneca said that “The body must be treated rigorously so that it’s not disobedient to the mind”. Who’s in charge, the little voice in your head that’s telling you to quit or the willpower that says “I’m going to finish this. I have more in me”. That’s why we train mentally, physically and spiritually, so that when adversity does come, we’re ready.
If it was about information no one would be unhealthy or overweight. We know how to do it, but the problem is we don’t take the steps. That’s why the stoics have the discipline of action. At the end of the day it’s all about the actions you take.
“Just take the first step”, says Marcus Aurelius, “no one can stop you from that”.
“You could leave life right now, let that determine what you do and say and think”
- Marcus Aurelius
Unpleasant as it might be to think about. As wonderful as it would be if there was no such thing as death. We have to use death as a tool, we have to use it as spur to move forward and a reminder of what is truly important.
It’s a reminder to accept the good things without arrogance and to let the bad things go with indifference.
If your plane is delayed, you’re stressed, you’re tired, you’re hungry, or you’re frustrated, you should say: “Momento Mori”. “I’m going to die, why am I taking any of it seriously?”. What’s 3 hours here or 3 hours there, when you’re going to die anyways? “This too shall pass” and you should always remember that.
The Obstacle is the Way
You’re not stuck. I know you think you are but what the stoics wanted you to know is that yes, one path might be closed but another remains open. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
You always have the opportunity to practice virtue, and excellence. You can always change what you are doing based on what’s happening. No one prevents us from adapting, overcoming or changing the obstacles that are in our path and turning them into new paths.
Say “No” to the Inessential
Being great at something requires concentration, it requires elimination. Seneca says, “He who is everywhere, is no where”. If you want to be great at whatever it is you’re doing, it means focus. Everything you say yes to, means saying no to something else. But conversely, when you say no to other things, when you say no to the inessentials, it allows you to double down on what truly matters. So what are you saying “no” to, to say “yes” to what matters?
The purpose of philosophy is to make you better. It’s to scrub off your flaws, not to make you more judgmental or make you feel superior to other people. The purpose of all of this is to make you a better master of yourself. It’s called self-discipline for a reason, it’s your discipline over yourself. Leave everyone else and all their mistakes and shortcomings out of it.
Seneca says “Happy is he who makes others better”. Don’t just be a role model, be an inspiration. Be someone who makes others better by the example that they set, the work that they do, and by the good they bring to their community. That’s what stoicism is about. Epictetus says “Don’t just talk about your philosophy, embody it”. You make others better by being your best self. You also make yourself happy by seeing the good that you’re doing in the world and in people around you.